WOMEN IN THAILAND
- INDEPENDENT VIEWS
is both a conservative and a modern country, at one and the same time.
The status of Thai women is twisted between traditional / conservative
and modern / Western views. Let us elaborate….
so long ago; (in fact - still the case in some families today),
weddings were arranged by parents.
Forced marriages (like that of my wife Thapanee’s older sister – she
committed suicide, when Thapanee was
young girl to avoid an arranged
marriage) sometimes happened amongst poor parents who needed money to
cope with poverty.
Modern Thai women will now refuse their parents wishes for them to
have an arranged marriage to a husband that they don't love. Nowadays,
due the fact that children often leave the family home to find a job
in big cities, the young boys and girls prefer to choose their own
Many Thai people USED to have a bad image of weddings between
Thai women and foreigner men. The reason being, that many Thai people
erroneously believed that foreigners only married bar girls. When
walking in the street with a Thai woman, such Thai sentences as "You
don't like soup rice anymore but ham and eggs instead" or "Hey little
sister, Thai should help Thai; help us to profit from some of the of
the money of this foreigner" can still be heard.
Thais, especially in rural areas, a commonly held prejudiced belief
against a Thai woman walking with a Westerner, was that the woman was
obviously working in the sex industry - and the man her customer. It
may have been grossly unfair; but nevertheless, it was the perceived
the many thousands of Isaan women who left their villages and ended up
marrying a foreigner, being a “mia farang” (Westerners wife) has it
burdens. Some have to tolerate insults. All had to bear a certain
stigma - but the reality behind marrying outside their culture, was
the economic and social advantage it brought to the country.
Germany, for example - more than 30 000 Thai women are married to
German men. The same is also true in many other countries throughout
the Western World, where Thai women have married Western men. For some
of these women; it may have been a solution to escape from a certain
degree of poverty in Thailand - a way to increase their social status,
a way of living, and a way to find a faithful partner.
who marry Westerners in the 21st century, are now being
looked up to, instead of being looked down upon.
Thai dating was not similar to Western dating. Teenagers could be
boyfriend-girlfriend without having a kiss or holding hands, for
several years! When the time came; the boy would discuss the girl with
his parents. They would decide upon the suitability of the
match. The boy could not go against his parents' decision.
gestures of love and affection were inappropriate in Thai culture.
Dating is very common now in
Youngsters don't just devote their life to the first
boyfriend/girlfriend that they meet.
Explicit acts of love like holding hands, embracing, and kissing in
public are no longer taboo in the eyes of teenagers. – but
nevertheless - still not practised by all.
Thailand it was unacceptable for any conservative couples to have sex
before they get married. Thai people usually associated having sex
with getting married. Thai culture didn’t allow boys and girls to stay
overnight together even though they had no sexual relations; unless
they were in group of friends or family. Thai people wouldn't have sex
before marriage unlike modern western couples, where there is no
commitment, before having sex. It was often stated, "A man wants to
be the first boy of his girlfriend, whilst a woman wants to be the
last girl of her boyfriend".
Values, attitudes and behaviour of many Thai teens were in crisis
because of excessive Western influences promoted by the mass media. To
combat sexual promiscuity among teens, a Thai senator, stated she
would launch a public campaign to encourage students to remain chaste
until marriage. Conservatives blamed the media, Western culture and
the disintegration of the family. They praised Thai values, in which
women are expected to preserve their virginity and display sexual
or premarital sex, occurs much more than conservatives think, as it is
not considered such a "dirty" thing any longer. Many couples live
together before getting married, to test out their relationship.
Under-age and pre-marital sex is no longer taboo as long as there is
some restraint, and the relationship has some potential permanence.
women are not expected to smoke. Thai culture doesn't accept women
smokers. Smoking is often linked to bad girls.
Thai women are not quite so, passive and demure – except by Western
standards. They still generally do not smoke – unless they are bar
girls. Thai people are shy. Parents educate them to mistrust
strangers. A woman never accosts a stranger alone. If one behaves this
way, she might have a strong idea in her mind. If a Thai woman smiles
at you in the street, it is not at all an invitation. A smile is a way
of greeting. Thailand
is the “Land of Smiles”.
Abortion is illegal in
under most circumstances (Exceptions are cases of rape or when the
woman has been exposed to chemicals which could cause birth
deformities). Nevertheless every year some 300,000 Thai women have
illegal abortions. Some front pages of Thai newspapers often show
crude pictures. In
December 1999 the picture of a murdered rape victim almost completely naked
appeared on the front page of the newspaper Thai Rath. This has
launched an outcry against the newspaper. This demonstrates the fact
that there is still much work to be done, before women are not to be
considered as sexual objects.
Thailand there are intense debates on reforming the highly restrictive
is still a society for men.
The Buddhist concept being, that a woman is less valued than being a
man. Women still do not enjoy the same rights and same position in
society as men. Thai women may not have the power, but are always the
family head; and take care of the children and family finances.
Thai women or business women don't marry and stay single.
Why should they marry? Thai society says that if they are rich, they
don't need a husband. Some Thai men don't like intelligent women.
Husbands should of course take care and support their wife. For the
wife, receiving nice gifts from her husband is important. She is able
to show off to society that she is in a stable safe relationship. In
the past, Thai women didn't work and depended on men completely.
There is a significant gap between average salaries earned by men and
women as a result of the concentration of women in traditionally lower
There were 45 women among the 499 members of the House of
Representatives, and 20 women in the 200 member Senate. There were 3
women in the 35 member Cabinet (2003
Thai women are no longer required to take their husband's family name
when they marry. The vast majority of the women nowadays work and
contribute as much to the household income as the men, sometimes even
is often said that when a woman gets married, she loses her bargaining
power towards her husband. Thai society is biased against women who
get divorced. Many women don't divorce; in order to avoid gossip and
Until a few years ago, men could ask for divorce if their wives were
unfaithful - but the contrary was not true. Under existing laws only
men can seek to annul an engagement or file for a divorce while women
have to first prove their husbands have provided financial support to
woman cannot charge her husband with rape. Ubiquitous soap operas
advocate heroes raping their women as a means of expressing love.
cultural shock which happens between Thai wives and their foreign
husbands is the need to support a remote family in
is often stated, that when a man marries a Thai girl, it means that he
also marries her family as well. However the onus of financial
support need not fall upon him, if his wife does some work - If
however he demands that she remain at home 24/7 then, and only then
need the financial onus fall upon him. Thai children are educated
to respect their parents and support them. So money should be sent to
them. Otherwise everyone gossips that children have a stone heart ("CHAI
ใจดำ). Traditionally, women are the caregivers for the elderly.
However, as they are now in the workforce, taking care of old parents,
means more stress and strain for working women.
Many Thai people have their own apartment instead of living with their
parents, however it doesn't mean that they are not close to their
family and don't love or respect their parents.
Education is not important for women - as they need to find a husband!
Women go to college, and enjoy great education and freedom.
Thai Women have equal access to higher education. More than 50% of the
year's university graduates are women.
vision of men - NOT our words!
It's not just the lure of financial security but the "bad habits" of
Thai men, say those Thai women who have chosen Western men over their
male compatriots for husbands.
Thai women complain that Thai men prefer to have fun together ("PAI
rather than going back home and taking care of the family. After they
receive their monthly wages, Thai men are usually seen together in
restaurants without their wives. They pretend that they are having
“late meetings at the office” and then they go to restaurants where
there are singers, karaoke. Thai men have the bad reputation of being
serially unfaithful and having sex with prostitutes on a regular
sexual establishments had increased to the number of 8,431 and a lot
of these places were not in tourist towns at all.
Some Thai women complain about Thai men's bad habits, especially the
drinking, gambling and womanising, which they describe as being
irresponsible to the family.
When you ask
Thai women "Why have you chosen a foreign husband?” Many answer, that
“foreign men are more romantic, take better care of their wife, and
equally share family tasks. The wife’s opinions are listened to and
rich Thai men sometimes have a "MIA NOI" (เมียน้อย),
a second unofficial wife. The man provides everything for her. He
supports her children; however she is not recognised in society.
Powerful and influential men don't divorce; but can unofficially have
several minor wives. As long as he takes care of all of wives; it is
tolerated. This of course, is the Thai male point of view.
a study led by a Thai hospital, revealed some insights on Thai men’s
behaviour regarding polygamy. The study showed that the typical Thai
men who have a minor wife, or wives are mostly businessmen. The study
showed that most women who become minor wives, do so because they have
become dependent on men and feel they do not have to work hard to be
financially stable. The study showed that 33% of all minor wives had
problems of insecurity, while another 33% were lured into the
situation by men who lied about their marital status. Most women
wanted to end the marriage after learning about the minor wives. Most
men did not want to divorce their first wife.
Fear of AIDS
seems to have added to the appeal of a mistress. Sex with a mistress
is supposed to be safer than with a prostitute or casual partner -- so
the theory goes.
a survey, focusing on married men's extra-marital relations, was
carried out among 1069 men. About 66.4% say they had sex with other
women. More than 80% of respondents found it unacceptable for married
women to have affairs or even date men without telling them they are
Thai men and women nowadays are very self-confident, independent, and
intelligent. There are a large number of Thais who are well travelled,
educated, successful in their careers, and have a loving and
WE WISH TO
ACKNOWLEDGE OUR GRATITUDE TO THE “THAI WORLD VIEW WEBSITE” who kindly
gave their permission to use some textual cultural information from
their excellent website.